Classical, ubiquitous, a story for all the ages. These are only a few words to describe the myth that is Sherlock Holmes. Second best performing on-going TV series since its inception, Sherlock Holmes never disappointed on the big screen either. Guy Ritchie’s take on the literary phenomenon gave Mr Holmes a whole new, sharper dimension, appealing to a younger generation and in turn spawning a whole new re-awakening not just in the books, but also in games.
Speaking of, how has Sherlock Holmes fared in terms of video games? We don’t seem to hear about them quite just as much as other names in the market. That does not mean there aren’t any – trust me, there are plenty. And today we’re going to delve a little bit deeper into what the franchise has offered in the last five years (or so – we had to cheat a bit here but with good reason). Has it delivered? Has it disappointed? Let’s dive right in.
Lets’ start with Sherlock Holmes Crimes and Punishment from 2014. Developers Frogwares never really delivered Holmes-ian standards unfortunately. Their games always lacked that certain something, be it graphical glitches, plot inconsistencies or general gameplay. I want to start with this version because from all Frogwares adaptations, I think this was the one I enjoyed the most. Why? Let’s start from the basics: it still had glitches and it still presented little inconsistencies which seemed more like a fault due to lack of proper foresight. For example, the common Sherlock Holmes, even the literary version, does not have over-arching plots. Rather, every book was a standalone with little in terms of a higher storyline. This game attempts to place the game within a narrative context involving The Merry Men, a group of terrorists which are only mentioned at the end, almost like an after-thought.
I did not like this.
However, what I did like was the acting and voices of the game, the way you had to deduce your way out through 6 cases, but that there wasn’t just one way to solve a case. In fact, you’re not even told how the case had been actually solved unless you want to know. Let’s say this assuaged my interest in creatively solving cases. The gameplay is challenging and fun, you re-enact murders and get to dress up, you figure out clues by clicking on stuff, meeting highly colourful character who make the story more interesting. Definitely go for it if you’re a fan.
Then there’s Sherlock Holmes The Devil’s Daughter, later version launched to market in 2016 also by Frogwares. Where to start? You’d imagine a later version would work on the faults of its predecessor and perhaps offer an even better product. Unfortunately this wasn’t the case.
Sherlock Holmes is often epitomised by having this almost all-knowing approach to everything in life. Guy Ritchie portrays it magnificently in the way Sherlock thinks through actions in split seconds, reflecting on what his opponent’s next move will be. The Devil’s Daughter does draw a little on this, though the overall theme is nowhere other Sherlock Holmes games like the one from IGT for example. However, I feel like it does fail miserably in many aspects, stifling the player’s creativity, at once giving that astute gameplay and others caging you within restrictions. Mini-games serve as distractions but have little bearing on the overall game. No, these 6 cases leave much to be desired and do not, at any point in time make me feel like the clever Sherlock Holmes.
The Testament of Sherlock Holmes (2012) is fun, but leaves you with a slight feeling that you’re playing with a low-budget game. Lip-syncing is out, controls are clumsy and the animation far from flowing smoothly. The game is far from being hopeless though – there’s a pervading lack of instructions but otherwise, it’s a solid game (with some unnecessary creepy elements) where we see Sherlock in a more disturbed and dark mood. This time, he has been charged of a murder and the clues leading to him are so good even he can’t get out of them.
Sounds like my kind of fun.
And it is, if you can forgive the clunky gameplay, this game allows you a measure of pride. I really did feel like a detective – even because the mini-games have absolutely no hints so you have to literally figure them all out by yourself. Not a favourite, but the 12 hours I spent on the entire campaign were not wholly wasted.
I’m still waiting for a Guy Ritchie game though.